by Paula Reid / CBS NEWS
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is resigning, President Trump announced in a tweet Sunday. CBS News first reported Nielsen’s impending departure, which Mr. Trump announced after a 5 p.m. meeting with Nielsen at the White House.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary, the president announced.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will be leaving her position, and I would like to thank her for her service,” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday. “…I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary for @DHSgov. I have confidence that Kevin will do a great job!”
One U.S. official told CBS News is it unlikely McAleenan would be nominated as Nielsen’s permanent replacement.
Nielsen’s imminent departure is a part of a massive DHS overhaul engineered and directed by top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, according to a senior U.S. official. It’s unclear whether Nielsen is deciding to leave voluntarily, or whether she has been pressured to resign. But Nielsen’s tenure since she was confirmed in December 2017 has at times been rocky, with the president taking some of his frustrations over illegal immigration out on her. Questions about whether she might leave have swirled for months. But she was by the president’s side on Friday in Calexico, California, as Mr. Trump pushed for a crackdown on illegal immigration and the need for a border wall.
Nielsen’s announced exit comes two days after Mr. Trump announced he wants to go in a “tougher” direction in his nomination for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director, after originally announcing Ron Vitiello would head ICE.
In recent days, Mr. Trump has threatened to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border or slap tariffs on cars made in Mexico coming into the U.S. if Mexico and Congress don’t fix the situation at the border.
Nielsen became known for her vigorous defense of the “zero tolerance” policy resulting in family separations at the border, blaming Congress for a “loophole” in the laws that needs to be fixed. Nielsen claimed in a White House briefing last year that the administration was merely continuing a policy from “previous administrations” that mandates separating a child who is “in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken the law.”
“As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way,” Nielsen told reporters at the time.
Major Garrett, Arden Farhi and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.
First published on April 7, 2019 / 5:14 PM
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